In addition to a new hospital, the new medical campus proposed near the I-95/Route 155 interchange in Havre de Grace could have up to 19 additional buildings encompassing nearly 500,000 square feet, including a hotel, office buildings and retail activities such as a gas station, bank and day care center.
On Sept. 24, the Havre de Grace Planning Commission will conduct what will likely be its final review of the concept plan for the proposed new hospital and its surrounding campus on Route 155 at Bulle Rock Parkway, City Councilman Barbara Wagner reminded citizens during her report at Tuesday's city council meeting.
The session, which begins at 7 p.m. at city hall and is open to the public, should also provide the planning commission and city residents with a more detailed look at what Upper Chesapeake Health plans for its 95 acres, which the city has classified as mixed office and employment, or MOE.
Upper Chesapeake Health plans to build the 250,000-square-foot new hospital as a replacement for Harford Memorial Hospital in downtown Havre de Grace.
Concept plans for the site have been shown to the public on several previous occasions, and the planning commission looked at them as recently as late July; however, in earlier meetings with the public, most of the focus has been on the new hospital, not the office and retail component of the planned campus.
Since then, the city council has altered the zoning code to allow the planning commission an additional review to make recommendations to city planners before the full project goes to the final approval stage.
According to the agenda for the Sept. 24 planning commission meeting, up to 20 buildings could be constructed on the 95-acre campus in at least four phases stretching over more than a dozen years. The medical complex would be the first major development in and around the 49-year-old interchange, one of the few along the interstate highway that has almost no dense commercial development nearby.
The first phase – with construction around 2016 – would include the 250,000-square-foot hospital; a second building housing 69,000 square feet of medical offices, 5,000 square feet of retail and a 6,000 square foot pharmacy; and a third building housing a 14,000-square-foot pharmacy.
The hospital would initially be sized for 108 beds but will have expansion potential.
The second phase around 2019 would have three buildings housing medical offices and general offices, retail space and a restaurant.
The third phase around 2021 would include four buildings, including retail, offices and a 75,600-square-foot, 110-room hotel.
The fourth phase around 2025 would include 10 buildings for retail and/or offices that range in size from 4,000 square feet – a bank – to 30,000 square feet.
The planning commission's meeting agenda for the 24th, which is available online at http://www.havredegracemd.com/harford-county-planning-commission-agenda, spells out how the medical campus project will be phased and what each phase consists of.
The agenda also notes that the city planning department has approved a forest conservation plan for the site and expects to approve a stormwater management concept plan by Friday.
The agenda also notes that the planning department is reviewing a traffic study for the project, "which incorporates the Route 155 corridor and Bulle Rock Parkway; initial recommendations include phased installation of two additional signalized I-95 access ramp intersections, realignment of access ramps, partial widening of Route 155 and Bulle Rock Parkway."
In addition to city approvals, the new hospital will require state licensing approvals before it can become a reality.
Prior meetings, discussions
Although Upper Chesapeake officials have been up front with the public about their desire to build a new hospital and to surround it with ancillary uses, specific details about the project have been lacking.
About 125 people attended a public information meeting about the proposed medical campus that Upper Chesapeake officials conducted July 24 at the Havre de Grace Community Center, where most of the reactions of those attending were positive about the new hospital plan. In addition to city officials and community residents, Harford County Executive David Craig attended the session.
The new hospital will essentially be a more contemporary version of the existing Harford Memorial Hospital, not a trauma center or even a significantly larger hospital, Upper Chesapeake officials said at the meeting. Once it is built, another use will be found for the existing Harford Memorial property.
They also said the new hospital would have between 84 and 116 beds, while Harford Memorial is licensed for 89, down from 300 in the facility's heyday in the 1960s. In addition, most services will not be different from those offered at the existing hospital, which Upper Chesapeake says will employ 650 to 700 people.
Some concerns were expressed at the July 24 session about traffic and site amenities and at what stage off-site road improvements, such as widening Bulle Rock Parkway to four lanes, would take place in the site development process.
Upper Chesapeake officials were also vague then about the hospital project's timetable, saying groundbreaking could occur in as little as two years or as long as 10 years or more, depending on the speed of the state licensing process involved.
In early August, the Havre de Grace City Council passed an amended zoning law that puts more restrictions on lighting and imposes other development requirements on the proposed hospital site. The council had already amended the legislation several times in July, adding standards for minimal glare and requiring that Upper Chesapeake provide 300 square feet of office space at no cost for use by the city tourism operations.
City council members also debated a proposal that would give the planning commission more oversight of the project review, eventually agreeing to and adopting the wording: "Once the concept plan is approved by the department of planning and the planning commission has had 30 days to review and make recommendations, the applicant may then go through with the normal approval process."